Leake first spoken-word AGT winner

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Brandon Leake during the America's Got Talent live results on Sept. 23. Chris Haston/NBC

Delta College Academic Advisor and Stockton native Brandon Leake was crowned as the latest champion of NBC’s talent show competition “America’s Got Talent” on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

On Tuesday, Leake performed a moving spoken-word poem about the love he has for his infant-daughter Aaliyah and his fears relating to fatherhood.

This piece resonated with viewers and their votes were enough to give him the edge over nine other finalists, including country duo Broken Roots and singer Cristina Rae, who placed second and third, respectively.

Leake was announced as the champion during a live results show.

He won $1 million and is set to headline his own show at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Leake was the first spoken-word poet to appear on the show, introducing many viewers to an art form not yet mainstream. America’s Got Talent is now in season 15.

“Spoken-word poetry has already picked up a huge ‘W’ in this,” Leake said in an Instagram post prior to the finale. “The fact of the matter is, poetry was never on the stage like this before.”

Before Leake’s debut on the show, “America’s Got Talent” judge Howie Mandel didn’t have any exposure to spoken-word poetry.

Throughout the course of the season, Mandel said he was left “speechless” by Leake’s performances and grew an appreciation for the art.

“Brandon is doing work that really needs to be done. People are listening to his words and relating to it,” Mandel told People magazine. “He’s given us so many ah-ha moments that you don’t normally get on a talent show. I think he’s more than just talent.”

Leake has not only received praise for his poetry, but for his humanitarian efforts.

In 2012, Leake founded Called to Move, an organization promoting the development of young minds through art.

The organization has hosted multiple open mic events throughout California, in cities such as Stockton and Sacramento, and continues to host events to this day.

Leake is also a civil rights activist, using his platform to speak about issues that affect people of color.

In the fourth round of the competition, Leake performed a passionate Black Lives Matter poem.

“There’s something so different about Ahmad Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and the countless others,” Leake said in his poem, a reference to the victims of recent police-involved incidents. “As I stared at that screen, I couldn’t help but think I was looking at a mirror image of myself being choked out for merely existing.”

The poem received positive reception, though some viewed his decision to perform it late in the competition as a risky move.

“I feel proud because it’s one of those things where you put in the practice, you put in the work for some time and you’re just anxiously waiting to go show it,” Leake told “Talent Wrap” after the performance. “With how timely the piece is and with the way the world is right now, I knew it was a statement that needed to be heard.”

During his time on “America’s Got Talent,” Leake became a symbol of hope for the youth in Stockton.

“What I hope is, my former students from Edison and Able Charter will see, ‘If he chased after his dream, I can do the same thing.’ And that Stockton isn’t a place you have to run away from,” he told The Record in a Sept. 9, 2020 article.